September 24, 2016
Q: With the news on Chris Bosh failing his physical, we can assume that the Heat are definitely in rebuilding mode, right? Bosh and his team have been preparing for this day for months, and the result was not what was expected. Would you agree that the 2016-17 Miami Heat are a rebuilding team with little or no chance for the playoffs or moving far into the playoffs? -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: As I've said before in this space, I believe rebuilding happens organically and not instantly. I can't see the Heat ever taking an approach like the 76ers have in recent seasons, with a blatant disregard for their fan base or competitive play. Now, if the initial results don't pan out, if a playoff seed does not appear likely, then I believe there will be a natural move to easing into the comfort of lottery position, be it giving players additional time off for rest or additional time for recuperation. I've always assessed playoff races as finding seven other teams in your conference that you can beat out for the playoffs. In the East, I think you can look at the Nets, 76ers, Magic and Bucks as teams that likely will not make the playoffs. So it comes down to this: With this Heat roster, are there three teams beyond those four that the Heat believe they can beat out for a playoff spot? If that remains possible/plausible, then I think the Heat move in the direction. When/if that no longer appears possible/plausible, that's when I think the concern turns to lottery seeding.
Q: Ira, regarding the Chris Bosh situation: As a health-care provider for over 30 years, I have never encountered a patient who relies solely on the medical opinion of one specialist. If the health question at hand is serious with "potential" life risks, then normal standard is to seek and follow the majority of experts in that particular area of specialty. I commend the Heat organization for at least following the standard of care and following the majority of opinions. -- Michael, North Miami Beach.
A: I believe that was what this week turned into for Chris, the reality that the Heat were not alone in their position. The meeting in New York with the NBA's medical staff apparently was quite sobering. And yet, if the entire experience is one that leads to a healthier Chris Bosh, then all the outside noise is meaningless.
Q: Ira, as someone who attended the inaugural Heat game and been a season-ticket holder for a good many years, this is the very first time my confidence, loyalty and passion have been shaken by Micky Arison, Pat Riley and my beloved organization. It was bad enough that we could not secure the greatest player in franchise history to finish his illustrious career here in LeBron James, but the fact that Riley had not met with Dwyane Wade was totally shocking. And now the Chris Bosh situation. -- Brian, Boca Raton.
A: I believe a lot of this is also part of the NBA circle of life when you are willing to play for the highest stakes. Look, the Bosh situation is like the Alonzo Mourning situation a decade and a half earlier, out of the Heat's hands. It's what comes next, when Pat Riley will be far less encumbered financially next summer when he heads into free agency than he was this past summer. That's when we'll likely get our best read of where things stand.
September 23, 2016
Q: Ira, so often in your "Ask Ira" answers I hear you say the Heat should come out and say this or they should say that to really tell you how they feel or how this situation is going, but doesn't being silent in a sense tell you how they feel and how this situation is going? There are very smart basketball minds running this organization. Maybe the answers that we are all looking for are in the silence from the organization. So often we want words to express how one feels about a situation (as Chris Bosh has done over the last couple of weeks), but isn't being silent just as powerful of how one feels, if you really think about it? -- Douglas, Hayward, Calif.
A: Oh, I believe the Heat are sending a loud-and-clear message by not saying anything. But I also believe the parameters have changed. Last season, Chris' absence was cast as a health issue, one either covered by confidentiality rules or just an appreciation for personal privacy. But now that Chris has clearly spelled out the entire process, including private photos from his hospital stay, that cover appears to be gone. That certainly doesn't necessarily free the Heat from such encumbrances, but until they feel allowed to as freely discuss Chris' health, this currently stands as a one-way street. Sort of a he-said, he-can't-say standoff. We know what Chris thinks about his health. We don't know, publicly, what the Heat think/believe/accept. That makes their reticence to speak understandable, but also muddling.
Q: Ira, I usually praise Chris Bosh for his intellect. However, I have to say I'm very disappointed. He and his wife have turned his health issues into an unnecessary side show all because he won't let go of his pride and realize that the Heat are only keeping his best interest at heart. Wouldn't you agree that this is an issue we shouldn't even be discussing? -- Carson.
A: I do not agree. Because Chris Bosh is a major part of this franchise. And I certainly respect Chris' concerns, as he stated on his podcast, that there also are salary-cap and collective-bargaining issues at play here. But Chris, and anyone who has taken the oath to "Heat culture" also appreciates just how much this franchise disdains public discourse about private concerns. No matter the outcomes, I think we can all agree this has not been handled in the Heat way.
Q: Rudy Gay has made it known, he will not return to the Sacramento Kings next year. Pat Riley is a master at swooping in on good players who are unhappy with their situations. The only thing this Heat team is missing is a proven scorer. Gay would be an excellent complement with Goran Dragic and already knows how to play with a dominant center like Hassan Whiteside. What are the chances the Heat grab him this year, and not wait until free agency over the summer? -- Robert.
A: Well how do you like that, an actual basketball question? OK, I'll bite. First, I'm not sure Rudy has established himself at any of his stops as a high-percentage volume scorer. And playing with a passing big man like DeMarcus Cousins is a lot different than playing with someone like Hassan Whiteside. But, yes, considering the Heat other options at small forward, he certainly could be considered an upgrade. And that is another part of the Bosh equation: If the Heat were able to reclaim Bosh's salary through his extended absence, then a deal for Gay could be made before this season's trading deadline, leaving the Heat with Gay's Bird Rights for free agency. Again, it is why there is this ongoing focus on what might come next with Bosh.
September 22, 2016
Q: Ira, why can’t the Heat work with the NBA to honor the player's wishes (and his doctor’s opinion that playing is safe) while at the same time work out an arrangement that if Chris Bosh were forced to miss any part of the season because of clots that the Heat could still get Bosh’s salary off the books without having to restart the clock, so to speak? If the Heat allow Bosh to play without such an arrangement they are taking an unbelievable risk that could set this franchise back years. The NBA could amend the rules going forward in the event this happens to other teams. If I'm the owner, that's the only way Bosh steps foot on the court. -- Brian, Cooper City.
A: The NBA's collective-bargaining agreement is not exactly a living document. It is a preset collaboration that typically requires give and take, as well as the occasional lockout, just to set in place. And it's not something that changes for a one-off incident. Beyond that, as mentioned here before, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have Dec. 15 deadlines to opt out of the current deal and renegotiate a new CBA. The last thing either side would want to do at such a delicate time is draw a line in the sand over a single player. As for the Heat allowing Bosh to play, it ultimately might not be their decision. If he is cleared by the right doctors (and it's still unclear who the "right doctors" might be), then he plays. Holding Bosh out cannot solely be a factor of the salary cap. That, by contrast, is something the union very much would step forward about, since that would be a policy shift that could impact every player. No, for now the rules of the game are clear and unbending for Bosh, the Heat, the NBA and the players' union. It is within those constraints that a resolution much be reached.
Q: Chris Bosh is one of my favorite all-time Heat players, not just because of his game, but his awesome personality. That said, I have a very bad feeling after his comments Wednesday to go along with his ongoing videos that he will be producing, that this is going to turn out to be a terrible sideshow to this coming Heat season, which is the last thing we needed after everything we have gone through the past couple of years. Doesn't he realize that the Heat are doing what any NBA team facing the same issues would do to protect the player and the franchise? His anger should not be towards the Heat, but towards the CBA that did not anticipate this type of issue happening and really doesn't have a solution that helps the franchise, player and fan base navigate this without killing the product on the court.-- Peter, Miami.
A: The thing is, if this had been addressed earlier in the game, then it may never have come to videos and Facebook sessions and podcasts and what has come out in the interim. While there clearly had to be a period of medical evaluation, this is something that seemingly could have been handled more efficiently from a Heat perspective, instead of the silence that has grown deafening. If the Heat would have followed up Micky Arison's tweet about Bosh returning to camp, and if the embrace had been more public from the front office and coaching staff, then these passive-aggressive moments may never have come to pass. The Heat (in concert with Bosh) need to address this sooner rather than later. This should not become something that overwhelms both media day and then the starting of training camp. As, all the while, we await Bosh's next video release.
Q: Ira I hope Chris Bosh doesn't fight to come back only to be sidelined again by blood clots. After already having two scares with his health it just doesn't seem wise to try and force the issue. -- Sadie.
A: And that's the other side of all of this, the most basic question of all: For all the possibilities of selective use of anticoagulants, is not the safest approach simply to step away from the game? Yes, there is risk in any contact sport, and in life, but this also is someone who has, in his own words, gone through a frightening medical ordeal. Twice.
September 21, 2016
Q: Ira, I don't see what the "Chris Bosh problem" is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it should be as easy as, "Yes, you have been medically cleared, you can play," or, "No, you have not been medically cleared, you can't play." -- Charles.
A: It's the middle ground that ultimately could be where the problem rests. With the assumption that Chris will be cleared to play, what is the guarantee that for the third season in a row he doesn't wind up sidelined at some point? That's the great unknown. A year ago at this time Chris said that he did not have the gene that left him predisposed to blood clots and did not anticipate a relapse. Then came February. While there clearly will be a much closer monitoring of his condition with the expected use of anticoagulants, there are no guarantees. Yes, any player could be injured at anytime. That is a given in all sports. But this is a player who has been stricken with the exact same ailment at the exact same juncture of consecutive seasons. Thus the likeliness of being on pins and needles for months, if not an entire season, always having to be mindful of immediately being able to activate Plan B.
Q: I think Derrick Williams is a little bit better than Gerald Green and will give you consistent scoring, not just a few great games. -- Will.
A: That's certainly a possibility. But the question will be whether the Heat need that scoring. A year ago, the Heat still did not know what they had in Josh Richardson, hadn't made such a significant investment in Tyler Johnson. Now I think that Richardson and Johnson get first dibs at what Green contributed last season, with Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters likely to attempt to compensate for the scoring lost with the loss of Dwyane Wade. I do agree that Williams could inject energy into the mix like Green, but I think that is more of an occasional role than a steady one.
Q: Why is everyone acting like Josh Richardson is out for the season? The most he'll miss is maybe five games. -- Jindo.
A: If even that. But training camp is when you begin to establish chemistry and cohesion, and Josh will miss all of camp and quite possibly all of the preseason schedule, as well. And while his knee issue won't necessarily keep him out for the start of the regular season, I do believe it will set him behind, with Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters likely to get his reps in the interim.
September 20, 2016
Q: Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic won't be able to close out games in the fourth quarter like Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson. -- Aura.
A: I'm not sure exactly how many games Johnson or Deng closed out, although Luol certainly was critical on the defensive end at the close of games. But I appreciate your point about having to reset when it comes to closers. Foremost, I think this becomes Goran Dragic's opportunity to become the primary facilitator at the close of games, whether it is with an eye on the rim or as a playmaker, roles that Wade previously dominated. It also allows Chris Bosh to become a primary option, instead of having to consider deferring to Wade. But that also means that Bosh has to get back to getting to the foul line. I am curious about whether Hassan Whiteside will be a featured finisher (or even will be on the court at the close of games). That will be a fascinating case study, of giving a player all that money but possibly turning in other directions with games on the line. Based on the Heat's salary structure and where they could stand against the cap for years to come, if there isn't ultimate trust in Dragic, Bosh and Whiteside, then the payroll priorities are out of whack and might need to be reset.
Q: Chris Bosh wants to play. Dwyane Wade wants to return. Can we just swap Bosh for Wade in December? -- Luchey.
A: OK, to backtrack but also reiterate from what was posted yesterday: The Heat almost assuredly will not have the type of money Dwyane Wade would be seeking next summer should he opt out of the second year of his Bulls contract, which is why a reunion seems farfetched, at least in the immediate future. However, yes, the Heat could, at any time after Dec. 15, trade equivalent salary to Chicago for Wade. I am sure that if Dwyane wanted a reunion, it would have to be alongside Bosh. So if you're taking about the Heat trading for Wade (again, this is just hypothetical and certainly farfetched), then Goran Dragic likely would be the chip. For the moment, though, I believe it would be wise to put this entire theater of the absurd aside.
Q: Do you think the Heat could do with Luke Babbitt what they did with Gerald Green last season, as far helping his defense and turning him into at least an average defender who can stay on the court? Also do you think playing on a team with the shot blocking of Hassan Whiteside will benefit him as far as staying on the floor? -- Chris, Lake Worth.
A: I would think that Luke, at best, would set up as insurance behind Josh McRoberts, a player who could move up in the rotation should the Heat be able to offload the final two years on McRoberts' deal, which includes a player option. Keep in mind, Babbitt already has played with both a defensive center (Omer Asik) and shot-blocker (Anthony Davis) in New Orleans, so it's not as if he hasn't had rim protection behind him already. I think Babbitt mostly was a low-cost gambit by the Heat that basically allows them to decide if he is worthy of investing time before camp. If a veteran with fully guaranteed money is waived to allow the Heat to keep someone like Briante Weber, it could be Babbitt.
September 19, 2016
Q: Hi, Ira. With all the talk of Heat "family," I find it difficult to fathom (using one of your favorite descriptions) that management has seemingly distanced themselves from Chris Bosh during the summer, leading right up to training camp. You would think they would be working closely together on seeing how they can come to a successful conclusion. I also found it odd -- and I don't know whose decision it was -- that Chris hasn't been in South Florida in recent weeks working out with the other players, working on chemistry, forming a bond, and exerting his leadership by taking on a position of mentoring the young players. He seems completely disconnected to the team in all phases. It's a shame this hasn't been handled better. -- Matteo.
A: And yet, as a veteran, the summer and offseason belong to Chris to do as he sees fit. And all of that might not matter, either. He's back in South Florida now, with a full week to bond before the start of training camp. I've also felt that "bonding" is overrated. What matters in the NBA is talent, and Chris, if he plays as he did during the first half of last season, after his previous bout with blood clots, remains arguably the team's best player. And even if Chris has been out of sight, just about every teammate has made a point of mentioning how much Chris means to the team. The next week is when a true statement will be made, with Chris back in town. The workouts before camp do not involve contact, so just being present will say plenty about what could come next.
Q: Will the Heat rotation go deep into this roster? As a perennial favorite for championship contention the emphasis on a seven- or eight-man rotation makes sense. But in a transition year searching for player upsides and wanting 48 minutes of up-tempo play, it would seem to make sense to follow the Warriors lead of a 10-man rotation that gets all the players invested in team success. Lacking a trio of superstars where some combination always had to be on the court, this year's roster of hungry players seeking to cement or kick-start a successful career would seem to argue for a more freewheeling approach. -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: You play more talent if you have more talent, as the Warriors did and do again. I see it the other way with this season's Heat, at least as long as contending remains possible. If Chris Bosh makes it back, then I would figure on plenty of Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, with other pieces utilized as needed. While it's safe to figure on ample doses of Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson, especially with the NBA's move toward smaller ball, I'm not sure the Heat necessarily have committed themselves to guaranteed minutes for Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt or Willie Reed, let alone Josh McRoberts or Udonis Haslem.
Q: Pat Riley is an NBA icon who will inspire the ages. Riley doesn't owe players; players owe Riley. Riley inspires me and others. Whatever Dwyane Wade thinks he has contributed to the game of basketball is miniscule to what Pat Riley has done for basketball. Riley drafted and developed Wade. Wade is not his premier legacy player. Riley has many. How many legacy coaches does Wade have? -- F.T.
A: This has never been about, and never should have been about, Riley vs. Wade. There should have been a way to make this work . . . if that was the Heat's ultimate organizational desire. While Riley already was a championship presence before Wade's arrival, what Dwyane did was allow Riley to add additional decades of top-of-the-game relevance. Basically, the two were better together than they likely will be apart. And yet, while both have said all the right things since the parting, when Wade says he has yet to receive that email from Riley, it does make you wonder where this actually all stands.
September 18, 2016
Q: Dwyane Wade spoke Saturday like someone who still wants to come back home. Could this be a one-year trial separation, until Wade and Pat Riley see the error of their ways? -- Kevin.
A: That might be the sentimental notion (and I still believe if Dwyane had taken 24 to 48 hours to sleep on it in July he still would be with the Heat), but the math no longer would work if Wade wants anything close to the $20 million-plus he would be opting out of from that second year on his Bulls contract. This difference is that by Wade signing with Chicago, his Bird Rights have been lost. So just as the Heat found themselves in a jam in July when they had to work with cap space after re-signing Hassan Whiteside, they would have to work with cap space again next summer for any Wade reunion. And the reality is the Heat might have less cap space to offer next July to Wade than what they offered this summer. Face it, it was all about money this offseason and those negotiations came up short. I'm not sure how they would differ next summer.
Q: The important question is how many teeth did Goran Dragic lose? -- David.
A: The official FIBA box scores from qualifying for EuroBasket 2017 did not include dental details, but Slovenia's 6-0 finish spoke volumes (5-0 with Dragic, who was given one game off). Over his five appearances, Dragic averaged 17.4 points on .532 shooting (7 of 17 on 3-pointers), 8.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds, with Slovenia plus-73 when he was on the court during the three-week schedule. Now the question is whether the participation leaves him ready for camp or fatigued. We'll know in just over a week,
Q; If I'm Pat Riley, I retire Udonis Haslem's number before Wade. U.D. never turned his back on the 305. -- Lee.
A: I doubt No. 40 goes up to the rafters before No. 3, but I would bet it would be up there before No. 6 or even No. 1. I'm not sure there has been a stage during his career when Haslem has been more essential to the Heat than this season, even as a player well past his playing prime. I doubt Pat Riley/Erik Spoelstra ever would remove the "C" from Chris Bosh, but Haslem has stood alone this offseason when, from a player standpoint, it has come to holding this team together.
September 17, 2016
Q: No other player have I adored more than Chris Bosh. It's not just he's game, so finesse and smooth, but also the person he is. In my memory he is the only Hall of Fame-worthy All-Star who is so open, honest, insightful, enlightening and approachable. I love my Miami Heat and I love Chris Bosh. I hope this situation doesn't turn ugly. It will be like two parents that you love dearly getting a divorce. It will be a sad, sad day the day Chris Bosh no longer wears the Miami Heat uniform. Forever a fan. -- Yunasi, Miami Beach.
A: And that's the rub. All Chris Bosh has been saying, both privately now publicly on his podcast, is that he wants to play. And during last season's playoffs, all he wanted was to play for the Miami Heat. As he said during one of his previously posted videos, he views himself as a basketball player who wants to play basketball. He is, in that respect, exactly what most fans covet: a player willing to run through a wall to pursue his sporting passion. The question now becomes, if an agreement is reached where he is cleared to return, will the passion toward the Heat be the same as his passion toward the game? What we know at the moment is that, seemingly above all, Chris Bosh wants to be an NBA player. But is he as ardent about wanting to be a Miami Heat player? Because, along with all the other qualities you mention, his leadership also has defined his NBA standing in recent years. Take away that element and his value to the Heat, especially in the locker room, still could be one of a net loss. I can't fathom the Heat removing his captaincy. But is that a role he still covets? Particularly with this team?
Q: Ira, the Heat's caution has made me wonder whether they will clear Chris Bosh for just a few games in the preseason and then for a few games of the regular season. Is it possible that they can declare a "test run" before either deciding to rule Bosh fit for play or medically retired? -- Jose, Brooklyn.
A: No. And there also is not the pick-and-choose option some have suggested. The Heat cannot arbitrarily assign Bosh a preset number of games before deciding his playing future. That is not their decision to make. Either he is cleared to return or is medically ruled out of competition. Remember, the NBA and its player union are facing a Dec. 15 deadline on opting out of the current collective-bargaining agreement. The NBA has enough on its plate without getting into it with the union over a single player. If Chris, as expected, is cleared to return, then all parties move forward with the appreciation that salary-cap relief and any other fiscal factors are off the table. And that certainly is the way it is looking at the moment.
Q: Ira, can you decipher the Morse Code that Chris Bosh speaks in? Colin Powell said never start a war without an exit strategy. -- Leon
A: No Morse Code, just: "I think you did me wrong and I'm not sure I can trust you ever again." Although this morass certainly less weighty, it still puts the Heat in a sticky situation entering camp.
September 16, 2016
Q: When this all plays out and Chris Bosh gets signed off to resume playing with the Heat, I have doubts how it works out with a cast of players he comes back to. Yes, Bosh was the leading man in Toronto, but that was when he was in his prime. This is a guy who returns without his friends by his side now. There were occasions last year where he was visibly chastising the younger players on the court and showed frustration when players other than him or Dwyane Wade took late-game shots. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see this being a good situation on top of all the conflict he's had with management concerning his health. -- Robert.
A: Your concerns would appear valid, especially based on Chris' tone regarding the Heat on his podcast. At 32, I would assume that Chris not only wants to return, but wants to return to a contending situation. At the moment, that could run counter to what the Heat are attempting to develop with Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. Erik Spoelstra, I am sure, will stress that both are possible: living in the moment while also preparing for the future. But when you look at this locker room, not only is Dwyane Wade gone, but also Luol Deng, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, players that Bosh might have found it easier to relate to. Even with Goran Dragic, while it provides Bosh with a contemporary, it also is a player that plays at a different speed than Chris. It certainly also doesn't help to lose someone like David Fizdale from the coaching staff. With Bosh, the concern beyond health might be mending fences and building bridges to the next evolution of this roster.
Q: Hi, Ira. If Chris Bosh feels and looks great, that's fine. But it doesn't cut to the core of the issue. Unless the Heat are convinced Chris' doctors have come up with a medical regiment that allows him to play, while significantly lessening the likelihood of a third blood-clot episode, I'm trading him sooner-rather-than-later. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.
A: But remember, an acquiring team would lose any salary-cap protections or exception possibilities if they acquire a player with a previously known condition. And I'm not sure how many teams would be willing to take on $76 million over the next three seasons. Plus, if Bosh can play, he would remain the Heat's best player. So what the Heat have to do (or, I assume already have done), is run the same risk assessment that Bosh and his medical team have done. The Bosh side of the equation certainly appears confidence the worst part of the process is over. Could it be that the Heat eventually reach the same conclusion? Otherwise, the type of deal that might make sense for the Heat is acquiring matching salaries for this season that arrive on expiring contracts, which essentially would produce the same cap space as had Bosh been declared unable to continue playing. The question, again, is whether there would be a team willing to take such a risk. Getting Bosh for a jumble of expiring contracts could prove to be a bonanza for another team if Bosh truly has found a method to reduce the odds of a relapse. In the end, it could come down to how much the Heat value the ongoing potential contributions of Bosh.
Q: Do you believe that LeBron James and his associates have influenced Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh against Pat Riley? -- Brian.
A: It is difficult to believe any other way. First there was the lateness of the decision to return to the Cavaliers in the 2014 offseason, after the Heat had made their signing gambit with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Then Wade quotes James as saying he couldn't believe the Heat didn't provide Wade with a Kobe Bryant-like career-appreciation contract. And then Bosh elects to turn his social media over to a LeBron-led outlet, when other options were available, such as the Players' Tribune. In each case, it is difficult not to notice the LeBron imprint. Then again, it also should not come as a surprise when the most influential player in the game has such influence.
September 15, 2016
Q: Playing under the rim, there will be universal holding of breath when Chris Bosh takes an elbow to the forehead, face. -- Juan.
A: This is the untold story when it comes to the podcast Chris offered Wednesday or the workout videos he previously passed along on social media: what happens when Bosh has to deal with a severe blow during a game? And the thing is, it's not the type of thing -- I don't think -- that you can simulate in advance. While Chris cited cases, particularly in hockey, where players have been able to return from blood clotting to go on to productive careers, in hockey there is far more protection when it comes to the head than in basketball. Granted, no one is shooting a puck at your head or checking you into the boards in basketball, but there is a degree of exposed body parts in the NBA that is not present in hockey or football. Beyond all of that, will Chris be as aggressive as he was before these two clotting incidents? And will the Heat put him as often in positions of contact as they did before these two episodes? The Heat not only need Chris back on the court, they need him to be the same All-Star he was before this recent absence. Even if he insists the body will be willing, will the mind?
Q: I still expect Pat Riley to trade Chris Bosh. -- Aura.
A: Chris hardly sounded like someone embracing anything about the Heat's "culture" during his podcast appearance, which does make one wonder whether he will be the third and final component of the Big Three to move along, following LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It's not that Chris said anything negative about the Heat, but there clearly wasn't an embrace there. In fact, when discussing how he was held out of the playoffs, it almost sounded as if the discontent already has begun. This could be a case where body language could say plenty when it comes to his return to the court. As far as a trade, that figures to be a later-rather-than-sooner possibility, considering all the moving parts in play.
Q: Udonis Haslem is sounding more and more like a future coach. -- Eddie.
A: All I can say is he was terrific on Tuesday night when he was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's Sports Hall of Champions. And even before that speech, he was eloquent on the red carpet when he spoke of doing anything and everything to help lead the Heat into their next incarnation. I think Udonis will be a critical component into helping Chris Bosh ease back into the locker room, and believe Udonis and Juwan Howard might be called upon to lead more than ever before, with Dwyane Wade and David Fizdale gone this offseason.
September 14, 2016
Q: Chris Bosh now has less health risk than other players who may have unknown conditions. His is known and can be closely monitored. He can be monitored with ultrasound. There is no reason he cannot play at All-Star level again. -- C.J.
A: But there is a big difference once the risk is known, because then it also is known how to minimize the risk, which, in this case, would be the complete avoidance of potential scenarios of bruising that could lead to clotting. Of course, the counter argument is that many professionals accept a degree of risk as part of their careers, certainly in contact sports. Look, Chris is going to attempt to play and most likely will play this season. But there also will be more questions about Chris' distinct health situation along the way, including every time the word "contusion" or "bruise" is use to describe any incident. And yet, for all we know, it could wind up being something else that ultimately defines Chris' health. When you think about it, despite playing through kidney illness and a kidney transplant, it ultimately was a knee injury that ended Alonzo Mourning's career. Heat fans (well, at least the majority) aren't doctors, but they can all appreciate that this is a highly unique situation, one with its own inevitable set of twists and turns.
Q: Since we have no chance at a ring with the Cavs and Warriors being favorites we might as well tank in a year with our own pick and strong draft class. Then we could add a good talent and maybe a star in 2017 free agency. -- Ryan.
A: If you would have said "future" talent, instead of "good" talent, I could appreciate the forward-thinking perspective. But if this roster has Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, and all three are able to make it through the season, then that hardly would/should put it in position to tank. You would have to severely underachieve with those three -- plus the likes of Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson -- to wind up close enough to the bottom of the standings to make a lottery roll of the dice worthwhile. Now, if there is an injury or illness, then such a drop likely would happen organically. I believe you go into the season attempting to maximize the roster, and then learn along the way whether that truly is possible.
Q: It seems Briante Weber is likely to be sent to the Skyforce to make room for Beno Udrih. But can't the Heat swap players on the 15-man roster with those on their D-League affiliate? Sending down players who may be struggling to get major court minutes that will benefit their game while bringing up a player who has outgrown the junior league seems to be what it is for. -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: No. Any player on the 15-man NBA roster that is sent to the D-League still counts against the NBA maximum. So the only way the Heat could send a player to Sioux Falls and maintain his contract rights would be to first include him on the final NBA roster. The hope, with such six-figure guarantees offered to players such as Rodney McGruder, Stefan Jankovic and Okaro White is that if they do prove themselves as NBA-level talents in Sioux Falls that they would give the Heat first crack when it comes to call-ups. As for Weber, if he does make the Heat's final 15-player NBA roster (which right now is questionable), it is possible he could be sent to Sioux Falls to seasoning and playing time with such a crowded Heat backcourt. However, should Josh Richardson miss more time than anticipated with his knee issue, it is possible the Heat might need Weber as a defensive presence in the backcourt.
September 13, 2016
Q: Josh Richardson's injury is a blessing in disguise. It sets in motion the necessity to learn how to adapt on the fly during the NBA season. Remember the Gerald Green incident or Mario Chalmers trade? Fans act as if the starting five will play 82 games. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: Well, it certainly is nice to receive the occasional half-full perspective, although I doubt any injury is a "blessing." And in this case the concern is going into the regular season with any semblance of continuity, considering Richardson was/is expected to play a major role. What this does is fast-track the possibilities for both Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters, who could be competing for the starting berth at shooting guard. It also could give additional reps to Briante Weber to show he can be the backup option as a backcourt stopper when Richardson is not available. But if the Heat are playing to win this season, then it certainly would have been preferable to have everyone available on camp, if only to allow the returning players to get back on the same page with Chris Bosh. Yes, better to be without Richardson during camp than the regular season, but camp is when you explore all possibilities. Now there will one fewer (essential) component that will be part of that process.
Q: Is a possible bench role a better idea for Chris Bosh? He could play as a backup power forward/center so that the starting unit can build chemistry. -- Eddie.
A: No. You don't play your highest-paid player off the bench. Plus, there is nothing to indicate with Chris' condition that conditioning will be a factor. Right now, assuming he is able to play as he did for the first half of the past two seasons, Chris Bosh is the best player on the Heat. Now, if there are concerns that Bosh could yet be lost at any time, that well could temper just how much the Heat build around Bosh's game. Still, I would make it all about Bosh at the start of the season, if only to see if this mix works. And if it doesn’t, then you still essentially are showcasing Bosh's skills to potential trade partners. Keep in mind, in today's NBA economy, Chris' contract certainly is tradable. What you have to show, to both yourself and outside teams (and possibly even potential free agents), is that Chris is healthy and up to all NBA challenges.
Q: Ira, I think you might be underestimating Willie Reed, Don't you think his signing was one of the better ones after the signings Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson? Willie Reed will be a key player this season. I view him as a steal this offseason. What are your thoughts? -- Daniel, Miami.
A: I tend to base my estimations on how the league views a player. If Willie was viewed as a difference maker, then I'm sure, in this NBA economy, there would have been more than the NBA minimum offered, and that the Nets would have been more aggressive in attempting to retain him. Now, that doesn't mean that the potential to reach the next level isn't there. Willie certainly has had his moments, including the ones with the Heat's summer-league team in 2015 that led to his signing by the Nets. I think Willie's chances will come down to how often the Heat utilizes a backup center. And that could come down -- as will be the case with many things this season for the Heat -- to how much the Heat are able to utilize Bosh.
September 12, 2016
Q: How would Pat Riley put together a roster without a single small forward that is a proven shooter? That's pretty amazing. You would think that with what he overpaid Wayne Ellington he could've used that money to find one. The only guard that is capable of playing small forward that can shoot is Josh Richardson. And if that's been the plan, it shows you how fragile it is. What if Josh sustained this same injury in 6-8 weeks from now? We would have no shooters in the frontcourt. Even if Chris Bosh plays, you still need a shooter at small forward, and the Heat really don't have one. -- Matteo.
A: The way that Pat Riley came out and said so early, in July, that he viewed Justise Winslow as his starting small forward going forward, I think the message was that the Heat view Winslow as a player whose jumper can be fixed. I agree that it gets difficult to play with a small forward or shooting guard that lacks range. That had been an issue with Dwyane Wade in recent seasons. So if the Heat can at least get shooting back at that position (Richardson? Dion Waiters? Tyler Johnson?), they might be able to slow play things at small forward for a while. Even if Bosh returns, I still could see ample minutes for Winslow at power forward (when Bosh or Hassan Whiteside are out), which would allow for more three-guard alignments, which I believe this roster will prioritize.
Q: Hi Ira, with Tyler Johnson being groomed as a point guard and Josh Richardson's recent injury (could maybe return in time for the start of the regular season, but probably not a starter), do you see the Heat going with ball-dominant Dion Waiters in the starting five, or have Beno Udrih come in with Dion on the second unit? -- Adrian, Paris.
A: If Bosh makes his expected return, I think there will be more than enough players with eyes on the rim in the starting unit (Whiteside, Bosh, Dragic). So I still see Waiters as a better fit with the second unit. Of course, that might not be how Waiters sees it. And it might not have been communicated to him that way when he signed for a significant pay cut of what he otherwise could have received by staying with the Thunder. As much as anything, I believe the Heat starting lineup will be fluid at the start of the season, which I also believe will be communicated to Waiters.
Q: Other players will not play as hard against Chris Bosh, worried about contact. -- Shyra.
A: I don't believe that for a second. And many bruises, which will be an ongoing concern with Bosh, are the result of seemingly innocuous contact, anyway. The risk will be there. It's how such moments are prepared for and handled that will determine Bosh's basketball future, not the benevolence of opponents.
September 11, 2016
Q: Just when us Heat fans thought our situation at shooting guard couldn't get any worse this offseason this injury happens to Josh Richardson before training camp even starts. -- Dallas, Staten Island, N.Y.
A: First, did anyone think the Heat's situation at shooting guard was beyond repair? With Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson, there certainly are serviceable options, plus the floor-stretching abilities of Wayne Ellington. No, there is no Dwyane Wade on this roster. But there is enough to withstand Josh Richardson missing the first week of the regular season, which appears to be the worst-case estimate at the most with his partially torn right MCL. There, however, could be legitimate concern on the defensive end when it comes to needing a stop at the position. Tyler Johnson has had his moments on the defensive end, but an argument could be made that of all of the Heat's guards in the absence of Richardson, only Briante Weber brings a true defensive disposition. Justise Winslow likely will take the toughest defensive cover at such moments, but that still could also have the likes of Waiters or Goran Dragic on the floor at such moments.
Q: John Wall is the type of creator that Hassan Whiteside needs. Shaquille O'Neal had Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Tim Duncan had Tony Parker. -- Aura.
A: And that's the crux with Goran Dragic at this point: Is he enough of a playmaker to draw the most out of the Heat's young talent? Yes, he can score. Yes, he can dictate pace. But at so many moments of truth over the past two seasons, it had been Dwyane Wade coming up with the crucial assists. There were times last season when Beno Udrih was a more functional playmaker than Dragic. While the Heat still need scoring from Dragic, especially with Wade gone, it will be interesting to see if he can evolve into a more efficient presence with his playmaking, with his assists up and turnovers down.
Q: People act like Josh McRoberts plays for another team. He still plays for Miami and he can shoot threes. -- Will.
A: But can he finally be healthy enough be build some momentum? And can the Heat trust his health enough to build their system around his most unique of skill sets? Last season he missed almost two months with his knee issue. The season before it was a seeming non-stop stream of injuries. With two seasons left on his contract, and with not much in the way of a trade market, you can't quite say Josh is down to his last chance. But at this point, it's almost as much up to health as any factor.
September 10, 2016
Q: A Chris Bosh-less Heat would have little to offer at power forward. The only shooter in the group is Luke Babbitt, and he offers little else, and would be a long shot to get consistent minutes. You need players up front with some range, to stretch the court in today's NBA. And even with a healthy Bosh, I'm not sure we have enough of that. And without him, we certainly don't. -- Matt.
A: Um, Josh McRoberts? Look, we've gone full circle so many times with McRoberts, it's almost as if this is nothing more than running in circles. But when McRoberts was added in the 2014 offseason, he was added as a 3-point threat. And the Heat have been able to get him the looks -- and he all too often has bypassed then. The Heat, if they intend on playing McRoberts, have to get him back as a 3-point threat, if only to command the respect of the defense. But this is why Bosh is so essential to the equation, he creates the space that Hassan Whiteside needs in the post, and clears the lane for Goran Dragic to get to the rim. It is why any talk of the Heat being better off without Bosh is foolish. Right now no one is panicking if McRoberts or Babbitt are standing undefended at the 3-point line. Same with Justise Winslow, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson and Derrick Williams. What you need is the threat. Bosh is a threat. McRoberts was one in Charlotte. I agree that spacing becomes exponentially more difficult if you have a post-up center (Whiteside) and a lack of stretchiness, for lack of a better word, at power forward.
Q: Hey Ira, any chance Miami can trade Goran Dragic and a couple of pieces for John Wall? -- John.
A: At the moment, I can't see anything that dramatic for Washington. But if the talk of Wall's inability to function with Bradley Beal becomes more than offseason conjecture then I am sure the entire NBA would explore the possibilities. And if the Wizards were to move Wall, they assuredly would want/need a point guard in return. The only thing we know is that Pat Riley loves to pounce at moments of unease, which is how he landed Dragic in the first place. Now, if the Wizards would be looking for draft picks, that's where the cupboard is barren for the Heat, in part because of that very Dragic trade.
Q: Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O'Neal playing together was a great story. And it's so refreshing to see Shaq pick Zo as a presenter Friday at the Hall of Fame. Zo refused to let the Heat lose Game 6 in Dallas during those 2006 NBA Finals. -- Stuart.
A: It was a fun story to put together, how such bitter rivals came to become such fierce teammates. Remember, it was Mourning who once prevented Shaq and Pat Riley from getting into it during a Heat practice. The one thing about O'Neal, as most of his former teammates can attest, is that when he was on your team, he was one your side. The one unfortunate exception appeared to be Kobe.
September 9, 2016
Q: I have been reading all the questions and answers. However, I don't believe Miami expects Chris Bosh to play. Without him they were a seventh game away from the Eastern Conference finals. If they believed he was coming back they do not let Dwyane Wade leave. They would have a team with two future Hall of Famers who are still All-Stars. I firmly believe the Heat's moves were motivated by them not believing Bosh will return. Add this to the Bosh e-mail pile. -- Morris, New York.
A: Duly noted. And duly added. But not necessarily seconded. There simply are too many moving parts with Chris Bosh's situation to build any type of future around the ultimate outcomes. In fact, I believe the opposite of your points, that the Heat instead considered every move this offseason in the void of any decision with Bosh, from re-signing Hassan Whiteside to allowing Dwyane Wade to depart. With that approach, the Heat have positioned themselves to pivot between the possibility of having a starting lineup that could contend for first-round homecourt advantage in the playoff and a counter approach that would stress youth, rebuilding and the future. And, all the while, they wait. By having that ability to pivot, it allows the Heat to pivot at any time, should a Bosh return either be cut short or be delayed. At this point, it doesn't really matter what the Heat believe, only what happens.
Q: If the Heat become a sub-.500 team, do you think Hassan Whiteside has the emotional maturity to handle a losing season? -- Grant, Murphy, N.C.
A: I'm sure that the Heat don't have any desire to find out, but that, too, is part of the equation when you make a player a max-salary player, whether he can handle adversity. The ante clearly has been raised with Hassan with his $98 million contract. That means handling multiple varieties of adversity, from playing through losses, through injuries and through fatigue. At times, there have been questions with all three with Whiteside. Now there have to be answers, if nothing else than to offer the comfort of being able to move forward with a new leading man. At 27 years old, there no longer is time to worry about whether Hassan has "the emotional maturity"' to handle anything. He has to have it. Or else a quarter of the Heat's salary cap might be invested in the wrong place.
Q: Are the Miami Heat still a prime destination for free agents? I mean, having no income tax and having this weather is great. But their loyalty program seems to be expiring. -- Alexander.
A: The good thing is that free agency no longer is a concern at the moment and won't be again until July 1 (the lack of a lockout allowing). So the issue of Dwyane Wade's departure impacting recruiting is moot for the moment. What will matter, as it always has, will be how much cap space the Heat will have available (which could come down to Chris Bosh's future) and the degree of success the Heat offer on the court with this latest remix. If the Heat are able to impress with either their record or the promise of their roster, they should be right there in the mix.
September 8, 2016
Q: With a plethora of guards, do you see one getting traded (once Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters are eligible, of course)? -- Gabriel, Denver.
A: I'm not sure I can sit here in September and tell you what might happen in December or January. Remember, the earliest any player signed in the offseason can be dealt is Dec. 15. There also is a second group of players that, because of the way their new contracts are structured, cannot be dealt until Jan. 15, with Tyler Johnson in that group. Because that, for all of what you might consider a glut, it's not as if just about every team didn't have the option to offer Waiters as much or more than the Heat offered (the $2.9 million exception for teams that had previously utilized cap space this offseason). And the thing is, if a player makes himself attractive for a trade, he likely will be making himself valued as a keeper. But what I will say is this: If Johnson shows he can play point guard, if Josh Richardson is just as good at the start of this season as he was at the end of last season, if Waiters shows that he might be more than a one-year rental, if Beno Udrih plays as well this season for the Heat as he did last season, if Briante Weber proves to be a lockdown defender against more than summer-league competition and if Wayne Ellington emerges as a can't-miss 3-point prospect . . . whew . . . then it could potentially open the door for a Goran Dragic trade. But that's a lot to have happen. And, again, there is plenty of time for it to all play itself out. More than anything, too much talent at any position is a dilemma the Heat gladly would embrace.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the best offseason acquisition for the Heat? Most people say the re-signing of Hassan Whiteside, and I would agree. But to me what's also intriguing is the signing of Derrick Williams. -- Robert, Miramar.
A: The thing about Hassan is we won't know until we know. The market is what made him a $98 million player; his play has yet to do that. So can he reach the level of his earnings? Can he deal with the accompanying pressures? As for Derrick Williams, to me it's almost as if he's Michael Beasley 2.0 (or 3.0 or 4.0) for the Heat, a player with so much promise who has yet to play up to his anticipated pedigree. The difference between Whiteside and Williams are the contracts. If Williams can produce merely to the level of a mid-level player, then it will prove to be a net gain for the Heat.
Q: Is this seemingly laissez-faire approach to settling Chris Bosh's status also an indication the Heat would prefer to cut ties? Thanks. -- Alejandro, New York.
A: It is an indication of nothing, and a situation that likely will play itself out through the course of training camp, the preseason and perhaps into the season, when it comes down to how much Chris can or cannot play, can or cannot travel, can or cannot medicate. At this point, it's almost as if Chris has to get back on the court so that elements of the equation can be determined. This is not a story that is being slow-played. This is a story that will play out at a deliberate pace of prudence and practicality.
September 7, 2016
Q: So Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson are better than Dion Waiters? LOL, really? In what world? Let's be honest, if Josh Richardson played with the LeBron James Cavaliers and OKC like Waiters did, he would not have gotten any playing time. Period. -- Will.
A: Until the middle of last season, Richardson wasn't getting playing time for the Heat, either. And then he blossomed into a player you couldn't keep on the bench, one who proved to be an effective playoff-level contributor, arguably with as many postseason moments with the Heat as Waiters had. But that was not the point I was making when asked about the Heat's upcoming decision at starting shooting guard. I was addressing the best utilization of the roster. And, to me, that has Waiters on the court when Goran Dragic is off, considering both are at their best with the ball in their hands. Think of it as a lesson learned from the Dragic-Dwyane Wade pairing. Now, if Waiters shows he has to be out on the floor for starter's minutes, then a move into the starting lineup will happen organically.
Q: Is an eight-game preseason run just what the Heat could ask for with so many new faces on the roster? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald. Ga.
A: In theory, that sounds right, with Erik Spoelstra given enough opportunity to work through rotation combinations in game conditions. However, I believe in this case it is a significant drawback because of all the travel. The Heat during the preseason will play in Washington, Kansas City, San Antonio, Louisville and Charlotte. That's a lot of travel days over the course of the month, days when players can't be on the practice court. With so many calls to be made this preseason, including the aforementioned decision at shooting guard, I'm not sure that the additional practice time wouldn't have been more beneficial. With 19 players on the camp roster, and possibly the maximum 20, it's not as if any player will be overworked.
Q: This is silly. Chris Bosh takes care of himself and plays smart. He will be his old self shortly after the season starts. -- C.J.
Q: There is overwhelming consensus Chris Bosh needs to be on blood thinners forever. Why don't the Heat just make a decision/move on? -- Howard.
A: And it's been like this daily in the mailbag. Because no one knows, and we won't until the Heat and Chris both announce that he either will be returning or won't be returning. And even then, to what degree of certainty? I've been asked for weeks now, and especially since Chris' workout videos last week, when a definitive announcement will be forthcoming. I'm not sure, in these circumstances, there will or can be a definitive announcement.
September 6, 2016
Q: I call B.S. There is no way Chris Bosh plays the way he has previously. From a conditioning side, he will be shaking off a lot of rust. Players at any age who take an extended time off for suspensions, mini-retirements, etc., rarely return to form. Any claim otherwise is wishful thinking. That said, I totally get why someone would say otherwise: We are talking about very sensitive issues, not least of which are his health. Navigating that can't be easy. -- David.
A: To refresh: I noted in a previous "Ask Ira" reply that Chris was in this exact same situation a year ago, having missed the second half of 2014-15 due to blood clots. And when he came back from that layoff, he returned as an All-Star contributor. Now he is at that exact same juncture, having been sidelined in the middle of this past season, also due to blood clots. Granted, he is a year older, but it's not as if we saw a dramatic falloff last season. The greater concern is it looks like this time around Chris could have to deal with a medication regimen, which could impact his performance if he returns. To me, the greater question is whether he will be able to go through full-contact practices, as he did a year ago. An attempt to go back and forth on blood thinners not only would impact his game-day schedule but also would have to be factored in for when the Heat hold their practices. And the one thing the Heat are known for are their contact -- elbow pad and knee pad -- practices.
Q: If Beno Udrih is in rotation where does that leave Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson at the two? Will Briante Weber even make the rotation? -- David.
A: I think the greater question is whether Weber will make the roster. And I do wonder if there will be true, open competition between Udrih and Weber in camp, or whether Udrih's full guarantee has guaranteed him for the season. I still think the Heat want/need to consider the possibilities of Richardson and Johnson at point guard, if only to leave the option of a Goran Dragic trade open, with possible viable long-term options.
Q: Isn't the rule that a team would need to wait 30 days to sign a player they traded then released, as when it happened with Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the Cavaliers? -- V. P.
A: In reference of the Heat being unable to re-sign Jarnell Stokes, who instead will go to camp with the Nuggets, the rule has changed several times over the years to prevent players from being traded as salary-cap ballast only to immediately return to the team that dealt them. A player now cannot return to the team that traded them at least for the balance of the season, or for a calendar year if he had additional time on his contract beyond that season. Because Stokes, who helped the Heat's affiliate win the D-League championship, had a team option year on his contract when dealt in February, he cannot be reacquired by the Heat until February. With all of the Heat's offseason moves, I'm not sure the Heat would necessarily have had a need/interest in Stokes at this stage, anyway.
September 5, 2016
Q: Ira, who do you think will start at shooting guard? With all due respect to Dion Waiters, it should be between Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson. But I often wonder and fear that Waiters was promised the job by Pat Riley. -- D.J., Miami.
A: I've received this question several times since Dion was added at a price point ($2.9 million for this season) that makes you wonder if there wasn't a Part II to the equation. And yet, when you size up the Heat roster and rotation, it would seem to make sense to utilize Waiters with the second unit, considering how this, in the absence of Dwyane Wade, will be the first time that Goran Dragic will be able to play his preferred style with the ball in his hands, and the Heat's potential lack of perimeter scoring with the second unit. I am sure that Erik Spoelstra will go into camp saying nothing is set in stone when it comes to the lineup, As he should. But there also is no clear front-runner to emerge as the starter, so it could be a case of Richardson or Tyler Johnson having to earn their way into the starting lineup. This is where the eight-game preseason, as well as the time in training camp, could particularly come in handy, with Spoelstra having the time to experiment with pairings and rotations. As is it, with so many new pieces, I doubt the Heat will have a definitive staring lineup going into the regular season.
Q: Goran Dragic won't have any energy left for the regular season -- Mat.
A: It's funny, with Slovenia playing a six-game schedule during EuroCup qualifying that runs through Sept. 17 and includes trips to Bulgaria, Kosovo and Ukraine, I've been wondering the same thing. You are talking about a 10-day turnaround from that Sept. 17 game in Slovenia against Ukraine to the start of the Heat's training camp. And Slovenia has been relying on Dragic heavily. The problem was that Dragic a year ago, amid his wife's difficult pregnancy and free-agent negotiations, admittedly didn't report to camp in the best of the shape. The best of all worlds would have been something in the middle of what happened last year and what is happening this year. The good news is that with the glut of guards on the roster, Dragic's reps in camp can be limited.
Q: You think that Chris Bosh is what he was two years ago? All this conversation is getting silly. Bosh will not be able to play the game. -- Sharad.
A: I don't see how anyone can know that. So much of what Bosh does is innate. I am sure he can step out of bed today and knock down 20 consecutive mid-range jumpers, and likely more. Now, conditioning, after so much time away from the game this offseason certainly will be a concern. But there is only one thing that likely will keep Chris Bosh from being Chris Bosh: medical opinion about concern of his returning to the court due to his previous bouts with blood clots.
September 4, 2016
Q: Hassan Whiteside would be a great piece on a good or great team (see DeAndre Jordan, who I feel Whiteside is better than) and is right at the salary for someone with his ability even if he doesn't improve, which I think he will. The question is: What are the expectations for him? -- Joel.
A: I believe the expectations will be based on whether Chris Bosh is alongside. With Bosh in place, Whiteside could find himself in the same position as Jordan with the Clippers, where any offense would be considered a bonus. But without Bosh in the lineup, I believe Hassan is capable of lifting his scoring average. What can't happen is Hassan out there hunting on his own for points, which will make it interesting to see how much offense Erik Spoelstra puts into the mix for Whiteside. While too much can be made about a player's salary impacting expectations, you can't give a quarter of your salary cap to one player and then not have expectations of commensurate productivity.
Q: Ira, this Chris Bosh issue, reading about it every day and the guessing game is really becoming tiring. I am so tired to read about it, watch video clips of him practicing, this guy puts in his two cents, the other one gives assurances, while another is not so optimistic, and so on and so forth. For heaven's sake, it is the Year 2016. The field of medicine has grown so vastly, and there is not one doctor who can give a clearance on Bosh? This is dragging for so long. -- Masoud, Tucson.
A: You've basically asked and answered your own question. This is such a unique situation that there are no answers. And when there are no easy answers the quest for resolution can remain open ended. Yes, you could probably find one doctor to tell Chris everything he wants to hear. But you also probably could one who would share in the most dire of concerns. The one thing that is getting lost in this is that neither side wants it to drag on. But also appreciate that this is about someone's very quality of life, and those issue rarely tend to be simple.
Q: Had the Heat known last year that the Dwyane Wade era would end so quickly, I think Devin Booker would've been a lock at the 10th pick. But the question is: Do the Heat feel satisfied of choosing Justise Winslow over Devin Booker because of the rise of Josh Richardson? -- George, New York.
A: I don't think any team would spend much time on revisionist history, especially with the Heat also having a glaring void at small forward with the departure of Luol Deng. Yes, I liked Booker a lot coming out of Kentucky, and I would tend to favor shooting and offense in today's NBA. But this is the Heat we're talking about, and that has had defense the priority for years. Booker has a definitive NBA skill that will produce result for years. Winslow has multiple skills that if fully refined could make him a more complete player down the road.
September 3, 2016
Q: Regardless if Chris Bosh is able to play or not the Heat should really stick to playing only two bigs in the rotation, either Bosh and Hassan Whiteside or Whiteside and Willie Reed. That formula last year seemed to work and I don't see any reason to fix what's not broken. With the depth we have at the wing, I think it serves the team better to play lineups with Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow with one big. It keeps the floor spread for Dragic to attack. -- Taylor, Tazewell, Va.
A: I disagree, only because you can't dictate your rotation by positional designations. You have to get your best players on the floor. And right now, I don't see Willie Reed fitting into the first eight, or possibly beyond. Now, if Bosh is able to play, all else becomes moot. But when sizing up this roster, it might come down to Whiteside as the only big man in the primary rotation if Bosh is out, possibly with Winslow, Josh McRoberts or another player upsizing off the bench, including Derrick Williams or James Johnson. You play your best players. Period. And, most of all, you hope you have enough "best" players. Now, should Whiteside miss a game or incur foul trouble, that’s another story. Then going with Reed would make more sense.
Q: Ira, the one thing that makes the Golden State Warriors a great team is freedom. They don't try to limit anyone's capabilities and put them in a role that makes them one-dimensional. There were times I thought guys like Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and somewhat of Justise Winslow were limited toward what they could do. Are Erik Spoelstra's comments about not wanting to limit guys from being great players a step in the right direction? -- Daryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: Actually, that has been Erik Spoelstra's approach since LeBron James, to use Spoelstra's parlance, found himself put into a box during his first season with the Heat as solely a wing player. Versatility is always the goal . . . if you have versatile players, as the Warriors do in particular with Draymond Green. The key is having players who can defend at one position and fill an offensive role at another. That would appear to quantify Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, and perhaps Tyler Johnson and some of the newcomers, as well.
Q: It looks like a foregone conclusion that Briante Weber won't make the 15-man final roster after the Beno Udrih signing. Do you believe the Heat fear that if he is sent to the D-League he will be snatched up by another team? I don't want miss out on a gem in the rough like Patrick Beverley, Ian Clark or Garrett Temple. -- Rodney, Miami.
A: First, amid all the uncertainty with Chris Bosh there will be no givens when it comes to the Heat's final 15-man roster. Unlike recent seasons, the Heat are not so hard up against the luxury tax that they can't afford to eat a contract. And there are several one-year contracts that could be written off should Weber separate himself. As for losing him from the D-League, I don't believe that would happen, because I believe if he is cut, another team will claim and his minimal salary off waivers.
September 2, 2016
Q: I wonder if Micky Arison's comments are really a preemptive move in anticipation of a lawsuit by Chris Bosh and/or the union, who are bound to claim the Heat never wanted Bosh to return or intended to allow him to play, in order to get out from his contract. -- David.
A: Or it simply could have been a tweet from a team owner glad to see his player working out in advance of training camp. Look, I don't think Wednesday's night tweet, by itself, is an indication, one way or the other, of whether Chris Bosh gets back on the court in contact situations. There still have to be physicals not only for Bosh, but for every player on the roster. And remember, even if Chris doesn't return to the court immediately, or going forward, he still was expected in camp, just as he was with the Heat during the playoffs, including on the court with teammates during pregame shootarounds. And there really, even with all the convoluted language in the collective-bargaining agreement, are not many (or even any) ways for the Heat to get Bosh's salary off the books unless there is an overwhelming consensus that he no longer can play. With the information at hand, I'm not sure anyone knows what will happen in camp, during the preseason, or beyond. In fact, I hardly would classify, "Looking good CB" and "look forward to seeing in camp," as "comments," when it comes to what Micky Arison offered in his 140 characters. Well-wishing is not the same as policy setting.
Q: Sometimes one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see what's happening with Chris Bosh and the Heat. Why would Bosh's wife tweet, back-handedly, at Mr. Arison. Remember, Dwyane Wade's wife tweeted, "not even a phone call." I think the triad is finished with the Miami. LeBron James and Wade are gone. Bosh wants to go and the Heat should facilitate him. -- Leon, Miami.
A: I don't think so. It's not like, with his salary, Chris can force a trade to the Bulls or Cavaliers. And based on his social-media offerings, he appears to enjoy wintering in South Florida. But I do agree that with LeBron and Wade gone, Chris would be returning to something far different than what he left during his previous full season. As it is, Udonis Haslem is his only remaining teammate from the Heat's last visit to the NBA Finals two years ago. That's the part of the dynamic I am curious about, how Bosh will embrace what and who the Heat have become in his absence.
Q: Where do you think the Heat's motivation lies: Ensuring that Chris Bosh is healthy enough to play or re-gaining his cap space in February? -- Brian.
A: Health. If this was purely a money issue, the Heat could have played Bosh in the playoffs and perhaps realized additional revenues by advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, instead of falling in Game 7 to the Raptors (either way still positioned to potentially realize salary-cap relief by the 2017 free-agency period). Yes, there is an ancillary business side of the equation, and in a salary-cap league such vigilance is essential. But I do believe the Heat would appreciate nothing more than a consensus of trusted medical opinion to tell them that Chris Bosh can continue on with his career as if he never had those two episodes of clotting. But, failing that, there also is a business to run. For example, if someone is ill in any business, it is incumbent on that company to be aware of its alternative options in advance. So yes, the Heat are monitoring the books -- in conjunction with the greater issue of monitoring Chris' well-being.
September 1, 2016
Q: If Chris Bosh's current contract ended next summer and the Heat had cap space, who would they want to sign other than Bosh? He is an NBA champion, All-Star and capable of being the No. 1 guy on a playoff team. Miami's only concern should be making sure they are getting a player who can handle an 82-game season without risking his life. -- Ryan, Seattle.
A: OK, this obviously requires a pair of answers. To your first point, you are correct, that based on the fact that Russell Westbrook has removed himself from next summer's free-agent list and that Blake Griffin apparently is headed in that direction, only Warriors defections from Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry would put an arguably bigger name out there than Bosh. And if Chris Bosh never had to go through this nightmare with blood clots, he assuredly would receive a maximum deal as a free agent next summer, had that been the expiration of his contract (which, as an aside, is why his contract proved to be less onerous than anticipated, if not for this fateful turn with his health). But then you mention "making sure they are getting a player who can handle an 82-game season." And that's the other part of the equation, exactly what the Heat might or might not be getting with a Bosh return. Look, at 32 you're probably not getting 82 games out of a player or expecting that. But you likely are hoping for at least 70. So if a schedule can be worked out, perhaps limiting lengthy travel to single road games, a workable compromise could possibly be reached to benefit both Bosh and the Heat. But we're still a long way from such considerations.
Q: Ira, so, as strange as it sounds, will Chris Bosh be the biggest addition to the 2016-17 Heat? -- Jason.
A: The whole, complete Chris Bosh? Yes. At this stage, Chris Bosh at the top of his game likely offers you more, as Erik Spoelstra would say, "winning plays" than anyone else on the roster, be it Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside. But what remains to be seen is what you're getting. Remember, this is not an injury, so it's not as if he is coming off of any type of rehab. What we don't know, although perhaps Chris does, is what impact any medications or the lack thereof would have on his performance. That's what camp could be so significant.
Q: Chris Bosh playing by himself on the court in California is not the same as to play in a regular game. He has no "contact" play and has not played for two years. -- Sharad.
A: The thing is, Chris was recognized for playing so well during the first half of each of the two seasons that he was selected as an All-Star. So when he has been on the court, he has been very good, All-Star good. But I agree, with Chris to play either power forward or center, readjusting to contact will be necessary and could take time, if contact is, indeed, allowed. That's why an expedient resolution would be helpful, to have him on the court with teammates at AmericanAirlines Arena, rather than drilling alone or without NBA-level or intensity. But as always, the medical opinions supersede all else.
August 31, 2016
Q: So let's say Chris Bosh is healthy. He's never been the run-and-gun type of player that the Heat now want to run with a Goran Dragic-style offense (remember the Heat didn't start playing with that fast pace until Bosh and also Dwyane Wade went down near the All-Star break). I would absolutely love to see Bosh back in a Heat uniform, but do you think the Heat would pull a trade? -- Bert, Washington, D.C.
A: I believe this remains an issue of first things first. First, if Chris is deemed healthy enough to return, you have to get him on the court and in training camp and test the dynamic of having Bosh, Dragic and Hassan Whiteside on the court together for the first time in a system that also does not include Wade. It made sense before, when Bosh and Wade were your highest-paid players, to play at their preferred pace. But now that Whiteside has been given his $98 million deal, the balance has shifted. Based on the salaries handed out this offseason, Bosh's contract, for his contributions, hardly is out of line. But talent, alone, does not put a team in contention. Chemistry does. So you have to see what works and then move on from there. Show that Chris is fully healthy, with no further limitations, and a trade market could yet be reestablished. For now, though, take stock in what you have and see if these pieces can fit. This could be one of the most significant training camps and preseasons for the Heat in years.
Q: Do you think Justise Winslow will be an All-Star this year? And, second, say Winslow becomes an All-Star, how good are Miami's chances of going deep in the playoffs? -- Ryan, Port St. Lucie.
A: I think that would be a heck of a jump for a player who has yet to show a consistent NBA-level offensive game. To Justise's advantage, the All-Star reserves are selected by conference coaches, and coaches have long have had a soft spot for players who place a priority on facilitating and defending. But I think an appearance in the Rookie Game, as a second-year player, remains more likely for Winslow. Getting beyond such a selection, the Heat will need a quantum leap from Winslow to contend for a playoff spot. At the moment, he remains the most viable option to start at small forward, unless he is forced to play power forward in an absence of Chris Bosh.
Q: The Heat have a lot of guards on the current roster, and I saw that Mario Chalmers was back on the practice court after his injury. We always saw Rio at his best when he had competition coming for his starting spot (Mike Bibby, Carlos Arroyo, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier). I wonder how great Super Mario would be on a return stint with the Heat. Could he finally reach breakout status which we all know he has in him? --Robert, Alexandria, Va.
A: Can't see it happening after matching the offer sheet for Tyler Johnson and then bringing back Beno Udrih, the player who was acquired last season for Chalmers. Remember, among the reasons behind the trade of Chalmers was the uncertainty of Chalmers being able to accept playing as a third-string guard. With Dragic, Johnson and Josh Richardson in place, minutes would have been difficult to find for Chalmers even if Udrih also wasn't brought back or if Dion Waiters wasn't added. As it is, there is a possibility that Udrih could be asked to be inactive on game nights because of the glut of guards.
August 30, 2016
Q: Ira, so what are the choices here? Play Chris Bosh (preferred) because just keeping him out offers no relief if he doesn't consent? -- Rene.
A: Honestly, I think the Heat are back in a corner, not only with Chris posting his workout video on Monday, but with his wife, Adrienne, saying her husband will be back on the court. This all sounds familiar to the standoff during the playoffs that ultimately led to both sides tabling a decision until the offseason. A month from the start of the season, Bosh seemingly again is making his intentions clear. Now, if the overriding concern from the Heat is Bosh putting himself at risk, then they certainly would have the right to hold him out until getting a medical opinion that eases their concerns. But based on the video and rhetoric from Monday, yes, I think Chris will be back on the court, will try to go this season . . . and could wind up resetting his salary-cap clock with an appearance during the regular season. Then again, the clock that is utilized to determine if Bosh has been "inactive" due to illness does not count preseason games. So perhaps the compromise is to put Bosh out for a few exhibitions and have both Chris' doctors and the Heat's doctors reevaluate from there.
Q: Ira, are the Heat trying to steer Bosh into retirement? -- Mitchell.
A: It doesn't matter what the Heat are trying to do. All that matters is if someone tells Chris that it is safe for him to resume contact. If the Heat hold him out, perhaps with an eye on salary-cap relief on Feb. 9, all Bosh has to do is then sign with any other team at the minimum and the Heat would be on the hook -- both in terms of cash due and salary-cap cash -- for the balance of Chris' deal. This has little to do with what the Heat want and for more with what Chris decides. In the end, he ultimately holds all the cards.
Q: Will Bosh be 100 percent when training camp starts? -- 954 Egg.
A: The good news is we know that Chris is back on the court. The concern is that he is not on the court with teammates, at NBA speed, with NBA contact. Most of the Heat's players are back at AmericanAirlines Arena, working with the coaching and training staff. That's something difficult to replicate on the opposite coast. And with so many new players, one would think it would be essential to have a team captain around his teammates less than a month from the start of camp, especially with those ongoing chemistry concerns with Hassan Whiteside. This is not the season to have a player entering camp still working on conditioning. Of course, we're still not sure how much conditioning Chris can endure.
August 29, 2016
Q: You and many others question the Heat roster's lack of proven veterans. Yet the conundrum of last season was even with a starting unit of All-Stars who had played together over a full season, at the All-Star break they were only four games over .500. And they were criticized as slow, with no 3-point threat, ball movement or transition game. If that had continued, they would have fallen into the lottery. Now we lament the loss of the same players. I don't. Do you? -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: I don't see how anyone can view a team as "better" having lost Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and possibly playing an entire season without Chris Bosh (the great unknown). Just because you have different players doesn't mean you have better players. I can see where you are going when it comes to the young talent that now will be given the opportunity to flourish, perhaps as the Heat's next incarnation, when looking at Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, who all might have greater roles than expected. But when it comes to the journeyman the Heat loaded up on, I think we first have to see if strides are possible with the likes of Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt.
Q: Right now I'm in the "glass mostly empty" camp (i.e., I think the Heat are a 30-win team; it's a superstar-driven league). And, if so, so be it. I'll be a fan for life. But I do wonder what options Pat Riley will have. I think he's boxed in now. -- Daniel.
A: That could depend on the approach this season, and how much the Heat value their first-round pick in what is considered one of the best drafts in years (keeping in mind that the Heat's first-round pick the following year, in 2018, most likely goes to the Suns as part of the Dragic trade). Or it could come down to, as mentioned above, the growth the Heat envision from the likes of Whiteside, Winslow, Richardson and Tyler Johnson. But beyond all of that, there are two more parts of the equation of how Riley can get out of your aforementioned "box": getting back Chris Bosh at an All-Star level, or getting Bosh's salary off the books to be able to add a major free agent (or two) next summer.
Q: One of the big chess games for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat staff next season is keeping Hassan Whiteside on the court. Whiteside changes the landscape on defense. Opponents will look to get Whiteside in early foul trouble. -- Stuart.
A: This is what I alluded to with yesterday's final question, how everything with Whiteside becomes bigger this season now that he becomes a primary focus of the opposing game plan (with no Dwyane Wade to focus on, no Luol Deng to account for). As with any team's primary option, creating foul trouble certainly will be a goal. And that's where Whiteside has to take another step, appreciating what to challenge and what to allow. With the Heat's previous mix, getting the best out of Whiteside on the defensive end was the ultimate goal. Now, his scoring will be needed, as well. And that means being able to stay on the floor. By the end of last season, Hassan was no more than the fourth scoring option (behind Wade, Goran Dragic, Joe Johnson, and maybe even Deng), if that. Now he moves to the top of that last. And you can't score when on the bench saddled with foul trouble. To his credit, Whiteside's 4.5 fouls per 48 minutes had him positioned above most NBA centers last season, even with his defensive aggression. Based on the fact that the next man up at center for the Heat could be untested Willie Reed, staying on the floor will be paramount for Hassan.
August 28, 2016
Q: Why do people automatically assume Miami will not have a good season or a respectable one? If teams like Detroit and Boston with a bunch of nobodies can make the playoffs last year, then Miami can make it this season. -- Will.
A: To tackle the last part of your question first, the East appears stronger than last season, including significant upgrades for 2015-16 non-playoff teams Chicago and New York, as well as an expected return to health by Washington. As for your first comment, I don't think there can be any automatic assumptions at this stage because, first, you don't know if you will be working with Chris Bosh and, second, you have no idea how these pieces will fit. Putting aside the newcomers, it's not as if Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow have ever played together for extended periods in the absence of Dwyane Wade. This will be a team that enters training camp as a mystery and could exit that way as well. From there, with early-season games against the Raptors, Thunder and Spurs (twice) within the first nine games, we might have to wait until mid-November to get anything close to a true read. So, basically, buckle up.
Q: How can Heat management and you really think that this year's upcoming version of a team will be able to make the playoffs? There are twelve players on this team that have either played in the D-League, Europe or several different teams (4, 5 or 7 teams). Several of these players also went undrafted. As far as I am concerned this team is a notch above a D-League team and a notch below an NBA team. They will be lucky to win 25 games in my opinion. -- David, Fort Lauderdale.
A: And then you have the glass-half-empty analysis. Again, Chris Bosh remains too much of an unknown to quantify the 2016-17 Heat at this stage. But the very reasons that you cite are the reasons that the Heat express a contrasting outlook, that young players such as Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and even Whiteside and Winslow can mature into something efficient. The unknowns remain the likes of Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Luke Babbitt. And the reality of the Heat's season could come down to how much the Heat have to rely on such newcomers, all of whom could set up in the rotation behind the likes of Whiteside, Bosh, Winslow, Richardson, Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters, and perhaps Josh McRoberts and Beno Udrih. If your greatest concern is your 10th man, then your concerns aren't that great.
Q: Hassan Whiteside lacks speed when setting up picks or running back on defense. -- Lenin.
A: Well, I don't have the SportVU analysis in front of me to debate your point. But this is what Whiteside can expect going forward: expectations with each and every move. That's what happens when you go from D-League revelation to player on the roster with the most total money left on your contract. We know Hassan can do the big-muscle things, from fierce blocked shots to emphatic dunks. Now it comes down to the little things that will define how many next steps remain possible.
August 27, 2016
Q: Ira, I love the kids on the Heat. But realistically, how can they be better without a signature replacement for Dwyane Wade, or with Chris Bosh remaining sidelined? -- Ey, Miami.
A: Wasn't that signature replacement decided when Hassan Whiteside put his signature on that four-year, $98 million contract on July 1? You certainly can debate Hassan's ultimate upside, but when you make that type of commitment, and then when you move on without Wade a week later, the commitment becomes pretty clear. While Goran Dragic certainly has a significant contract of his own, by going all in with Whiteside during negotiations the logical follow-up has to be going all in during the coming season. The Heat paid Whiteside like an All-Star, so now the focus has to be getting him to consistently play at that level. While there certainly could be debate about whether a big man can be the ultimate decisive piece during this era of NBA small ball, you can't utilize a quarter of your salary cap on a player and then not make him at least that much of a difference maker. It sounds strange, with Hassan basically only a year and a half into his NBA career, but it's on him now -- and on the Heat staff to find a way to maximize his contributions.
Q: The 76ers now have no point guard. Was Erik Spoelstra telling Goran Dragic about Philly weather? -- Ben.
A: There have been a bunch of questions coming this way about a possible trade of Dragic and I just don't get it. As mentioned above, it's not as if the Heat are loaded with potential breakout players. Dragic has a proven track record, and arguably is the most polished player on the current roster. Now, if it goes south to the point where the Heat's focus turns to the lottery, there will be ample time to address a potential trade by the February trading deadline. But you start with Dragic-Whiteside and then see what can be made to work from there. Besides, the 76ers have a point guard in Ben Simmons, whose passing is what makes him so intriguing.
Q: What a coach. To really establish relationships with his players is very important. -- Roberts.
A: And make no mistake, Erik Spoelstra needs Dragic to lead the way on the court, now that Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng are gone from the starting lineup. The good news is that with Goran working with the Slovenian national team in EuroCup qualifying, he should arrive in shape for training camp and the start of the season, which wasn't exactly the case a year ago. The Heat are going to need leadership this season, and that could require a bigger voice from Dragic. In fact, should Chris Bosh be unable to return (and that remains undetermined), I wonder if Spoelstra would go as far as to elevate Goran to co-captain alongside Udonis Haslem.
August 26, 2016
Q: Ira, most likely to have a significant sophomore slump? Anyone? -- Jason.
A: First, the Heat's only "sophomores" are Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Briante Weber. And I'm not sure any of them overachieved to the point where there could be a discernible drop-off. But in the bigger picture, when asking about younger players who perhaps peaked last season, I do think there has to be concern with Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson when it comes to performance compared to the value of their new contracts. Whiteside's hunger these past two seasons has been undeniable. Does it remain in place now that he is financially sated? And is there enough upside from Johnson to emerge as a contender for a starting job? The greatest concern might be with Goran Dragic, who finally found his Heat legs during the playoffs and now looks around and, if Chris Bosh doesn't play, sees a roster no better than the one he left in Phoenix. Considering Dragic has to drive the Heat, it will be interesting to see what drives Dragic.
Q: Wish I could be optimistic about the Heat this year, but I'm looking at Chicago with a brand new backcourt of classy veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo perhaps challenging Cleveland. The loss of Pau Gasol to San Antonio was huge, but the addition of two standouts more than makes up for it, if the old-timers can stay well. -- Dave.
A: And make no mistake, the Bulls will be a measuring stick for the Heat this season, for what the Chicago gained and the Heat lost. If the Heat are committed to a playoff spot, which has been the tone of the rhetoric to this point, then the Bulls well could be one of the teams they have to push past. To me, the only playoff givens in the East are the Cavaliers, Raptors and Celtics. Beyond that just about every Eastern Conference game figures to matter. A lot.
Q: If Chris Bosh is healthy, what are the chances Erik Spoelstra starts Derrick Williams at the four in the Luol Deng role and then brings C.B. off the bench for a more half-court offense? -- B.C., Coral Springs.
A: I would assume that if Chris Bosh returns -- and that remains a huge "if" -- that he would come all the way back, which would mean back in the starting lineup, where any team would wants its lone All-Star. The thing about Deng was he was an elite defender, something Chris has developed into, as well. I'm not sure anyone would say that at this stage with Derrick, which likely will be a factor in where and when he plays.
August 25, 2016
Q: Miami has proven scorers in Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and maybe Hassan Whiteside. After those three, everyone else is a question mark. -- Aura.
A: A few things: First, this is what happens when you make the choice (and the Heat very much were in control of the situation) to allow Dwyane Wade to depart in the midst of uncertainty with Chris Bosh. It's all part of stepping back and reassessing. Second, putting Dwyane aside, any team that loses a top scorer, as could be the case with Bosh, finds itself playing from behind, as the Pacers did two seasons ago without Paul George. But the third element in the equation is that it allows players who otherwise might have had to temper their games, or defer, to now step up to another level. At $98 million over four years, it's something you'd certainly like to see from Whiteside. And with Dragic, it eliminates the question of having to step aside for Wade. Even with Waiters, there is not nearly the type of talent in front of him as he experienced with LeBron James' return to Cleveland or in Oklahoma City. For the Heat to score enough to be competitive (amid the uncertainty with Bosh), what you're basically asking for are career years from Whiteside, Dragic and Waiters. How high is their ceiling? We're about to find out.
Q: Goran Dragic won't be able to play next to Dion Waiters. Two small guards equals toast. -- Harry.
A: Which is why Josh Richardson could make more sense for the first unit, especially with potentially limited scoring on the second unit. If Waiters' desire is to be acknowledged as a top-tier scoring guard, he could find himself with more opportunities to explore his offensive possibilities with the second unit. But after taking a pay cut, the issue becomes getting Waiters to accept a role perhaps other than initially discussed. It will be interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra handles that element of the Heat's reshuffled roster.
Q: So the Skyforce's prospects for repeating as D-League champions are looking pretty good, eh? -- Tom, Chapel Hill, N.C.
A: And yet, while Rodney McGruder, Okaro White, Stefan Jankovic and possibly Briante Weber certainly would position the Skyforce for such a possibility, the shame of the Heat's roster glut is the potential lack of an opportunity of one or two to remain under the Heat NBA umbrella. Jankovic certainly needs such seasoning, and White likely was ticketed to Sioux Falls the day he signed his partially guaranteed deal, but the fact that it appears so obvious that the Heat will conduct, in essence, a Skyforce mini-camp, takes some of the shine off the possibilities of unearthing another NBA prospect. Then again, Tyler Johnson went from camp to the Skyforce and then was re-signed at midseason by the Heat. So there still could be that type of hope.
August 24, 2016
Q: Ira, I know you must be inundated with Chris Bosh questions, but with training camp just a month away surely there is a deadline on whether Bosh can or cannot play. It really is a distraction since the entire style of the team would change if he does or does not play. I think it's too much for Erik Spoelstra and the coaches to drop everything and remake the team based on such a late decision, whenever it comes. Thank you. -- David, Plantation.
A: There is no deadline, just like there was no timetable that dictated that Bosh would suffer a blood clot at midseason each of the past two seasons. But that doesn't mean the clock isn't running for a player whose last competitive action was Feb. 9. At this stage of the offseason, most players are working their way toward game shape. Players no longer use training camp to get into shape (which proved to be an issue with Goran Dragic last season after his inactive summer). Now they arrive ready to go, and, in the Heat's case, ready to pass the team's conditioning test. That, by itself, would create issues, if the rest of the team already is up to speed at the start of camp. What would be welcome would be a sign of Bosh returning to vigorous workouts, perhaps even on Snapchat or Instagram. As for Spoelstra having to develop dual game plans, that's what coaches have to do anyway, prepare for each and every eventuality.
Q: The thought of a defensive lineup of Briante Weber, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Hassan Whiteside and either Goran Dragic (in a small-ball lineup) or Chris Bosh sounds to appealing (Tyler Johnson has shown some defensive tenacity, too). There seems to be a lot of potential for easy points with that group. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: I doubt, in the absence of Bosh, there would be many "easy" points, no matter the approach. But I do agree there is sufficient defensive pedigree available to create a "bulldog" unit, if you will. The question is whether players such as Tyler Johnson, Richardson and Weber will get the minutes to form such continuity with Whiteside, or whether those minutes might instead go to the likes of Derrick Williams, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington, players known more for their offensive disposition. James Johnson also has the defensive disposition to work with such a group, as well.
Q: Josh Richardson needs to be on the floor, starting. -- Harry.
A: That will happen organically, either through his play during training camp, the preseason or the start of the regular season. Talent has a way or forcing the hand of coaches (assuming, as I do, that there have not been any guarantees already put in place when it comes to playing time or playing roles).
August 23, 2016
Q: Ira, do the Heat really get faster if Chris Bosh is healthy, or do you see them playing more of a halfcourt game with a "twin towers" approach? Most teams don't have an answer for a power forward-center team anymore, especially not with a point guard with good passing skills. Thoughts? -- Gabriel, Denver.
A: That is what has made Bosh's absences all the more frustrating, the fact that we have yet to see Bosh and Whiteside find a way to mesh their games into something beyond their individual skills. Is Whiteside-Bosh even an effective mix? At this point, it is difficult to offer much in the way of the affirmative. Now, that doesn't mean that Erik Spoelstra hasn't come up with something that will make it more effective than last season. But amid the uncertainty, one has to wonder how far down that road he has gone this offseason. If Bosh returns, it opens up a variety of possibilities, with the most likely outcome a halfcourt game that has Bosh more often in the mid-post and Whiteside planted closer to the baseline. When you have two quality pieces, there almost always is a way to make it work. If, indeed, you ultimately have those two quality pieces.
Q: Ira, I think James Johnson will break out and be an X-factor this season. He can guard all five positions. If his 3-point game goes up, like in Miami's Twitter videos, he can be a major asset for Erik Spoelstra's position-less style -- Mac, Toronto.
A: Which is why, to me, promotional video is as meaningful as what we've seen in some of these recent NFL exhibition games. It is one thing to make uncontested 3-pointers in rhythm while not being defended. It is another to do it under duress during game conditions. Yes, if James Johnson makes 3-pointers at a reliable rate he could be of benefit. But there was a point the Heat thought they could get the same from Udonis Haslem, who has shown during practices he can be every bit as efficient as James Johnson has shown during those promotional videos. With so many new pieces, a lot of it comes down to that we won't know until we know. The question becomes whether the Heat can figure it out soon enough as to not fall behind in the standings.
Q: Since we have no chance at a ring, with the Cavs and Warriors being the favorites, might as well tank in a year, with our own pick and a strong draft class (assuming Bosh retires or is traded). -- Ryan.
A: I find it amusing that in August anyone would be willing to give up on November, December, January, February, March and April. Sort of how the Dolphins have found themselves caught in the middle in the NFL standings in recent years, a game or two on either side of .500, I'm not sure a team featuring Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow (if not Chris Bosh, as well), can actually be "tanking" bad, which is to say out of the playoff race by the Feb. 23 trading deadline. I think you have to go in hoping for the best (like last season's Trail Blazers) and then play it out from there.
August 22, 2016
Q: Briante Weber I believe should be a keeper to learn more as a third-string point guard, not Tyler Johnson or Josh Richardson. My reason is because both like scoring and attacking, and neither has passing skills or a point guard mentality like Weber. Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington are scorers, pure shooters so you might want to keep them for space flooring. -- Lester, Tampa.
A: Agreed, which is why it is surprising that Weber could be squeezed out despite having three-eighths of his 2016-17 contract already guaranteed. One thing the Heat have lacked for years has been a lock-down defensive point guard, one who could pick up full court and wear down an opposing ballhandler. It is not what Goran Dragic does. Not what Beno Udrih does. That's what has made Briante so intriguing. But what we haven't witnessed are the Heat's private drills, and it's possible that Josh Richardson or Tyler Johnson have turned into such defensive prospects/pests, perhaps reducing the need for a specialist at point guard such as Briante.
Q: The gold-medal game Sunday was a wipeout without our best players. Olympic basketball needs change. Make it all college or half college and some pro, or an age restriction. -- Stephen.
A: A few thoughts here. First, just because there is dominance in an Olympic pursuit, does that mean it suddenly becomes unfair? Should Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps be banned because of their ascendancy? Plus, if you limit NBA players from participating, you are further limiting the chances of teams beyond the U.S. of competing. Now, you could impose age restrictions like Olympic soccer, but that again would be limiting the teams beyond the United States. And that format works because there is a World Cup to determine international soccer supremacy. From a basketball standpoint, the World Cup of Basketball does not resonate like an Olympic gold to NBA players. And keep in mind that most international players turn pro well younger than U.S.-born players. Beyond that, should you move toward the Olympic soccer model, I'm not sure there would be many NBA players who would want to be surrounded mostly by collegians in such an endeavor. No, sometimes dominance in a single sport is simply a nation's birthright.
Q: I like Dion Waiters, but if the Heat try to make him more than a sixth man his head is going to explode -- Mo.
A: It comes down to how open he is to it all. The Heat have been good about adopting a clean slate when it comes to bringing in veterans. Dion could wind up as everything from starter to instant-offense specialist. And I'm sure the Heat will explore each and every possibility. That's why I was somewhat curious about the low cost of the signing, and whether there had perhaps been some sort of guarantee about a role going forward. That, for the most part, has not been the Heat way.
August 21, 2016
Q: Whatever happened to Erik Spoelstra's vaunted "position-less" basketball? We are seeing a lot of concern about too many and too few players at given positions. What I see are core of players who are between 6-4 and 6-8 who can run, play two, three, or four and some at five. And depending on matchups and evolving lineup chemistry they give coaches a lot of flexibility in configuring who is on the floor. Doesn't the final roster just come down to the fifteen best players and sort out who goes where and when later? -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: Which is why I'm sure Erik Spoelstra is sitting back and smiling an amused smile over this debate. It also is why I'd envision the eight or nine best players ultimately forming the primary rotation. But I do believe there are two exceptions: You need a big man to anchor the defense, if at all possible, and you need playmakers to maximize the talent on the floor. That's why I believe you start with Hassan Whiteside and the combination of Goran Dragic/Beno Udrih and go from there.
Q: Dion Waiters on the Cavaliers was like the fifth or sixth option. He was one of the last options in OKC. But on Miami he might be the second. Ira, I don't know if I would put Josh Richardson ahead of Dion Waiters. That is a stretch for me. Dion never has been on a team like Miami. After 2016-17 we might all see why Dion Waiters number used to be No. 3 before he came to Miami. -- Will.
A: And I'm sure the Heat would more than welcome Waiters arriving as a revelation. In fact, one of the biggest question marks on this team will be who takes (and makes) the big shots with the game in the balance at the finish. The Heat, I'm sure, would love nothing more than Waiters making himself indispensible in such situations. The opportunity certainly will be there for Waiters to call this his house.
Q: Can a team send a roster player such as Josh McRoberts to the D-League in the hope that he is picked up by another team, obviously if he's not wanted, thereby excising his contract? Or is this only available to players without a contract? -- Joaquin, Coral Gables.
A: Josh McRoberts is not going to the D-League and the Heat are not sending him there. And any roster player in the D-League also counts against the NBA's 15-player limit, with such salary counting against the salary cap. I can't fathom McRoberts not being on the 15-man roster going into the season, unless he is included as part of a package in a trade. The real question is whether he will be part of the rotation, ahead of someone such as Derrick Williams, for example.
August 20, 2016
Q: Ira, if you were shaping this roster, what would you do? And could you please explain Luke Babbitt? -- Neil.
A: First, because it's August, I wouldn't do anything but consider all possibilities. There is a reason the NBA allows you to carry up to 20 players in the offseason before having to trim to a maximum of 15. I also might again see if there is any market for Josh McRoberts, while aware that the Heat were unable to make such a move in July amid their negotiations with Dwyane Wade. But I also would, between now and the end of the preseason, explore the possibilities of the younger fringe players. And if Briante Weber or even Rodney McGruder show they have potential to make a difference in the NBA this season, then I think you might have to consider eating some guaranteed money, especially since the Heat this time around are not dealing with the luxury tax. As for Babbitt, there is some advantage of moving forward, if only because of the players obtained this offseason, he arrives with Bird Rights, which could prove advantageous down the road. To me, Babbitt and McRoberts seem somewhat redundant, as outside shooting big men. The issue with McRoberts is that he holds a player option for 2017-18, so if there was even consideration of eating salary, it is a move the Heat could not afford to make because that future money would remain on the cap. Of all the players added in the offseason, Wayne Ellington appears somewhat as an odd man out, at least when it comes to the rotation, likely to go into camp behind Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson in the backcourt rotation, not to mention Beno Udrih. Of course, all the Heat's math still gets back to the X-factor of Chris Bosh.
Q: Why the criticism of Goran Dragic/Beno Udrih? Point guard is the floor general, and thus both of them can maximize the potential of this team. -- Juan.
A: Which I have been stressing since the agreement with Udrih. Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow are not necessarily players able to consistently create their own shots. That's why you need playmakers. The difference with this backcourt mix is that it no longer includes Dwyane Wade, whose playmaking long has been under-appreciated. For all their promise, I'm not sure Josh Richardson or Tyler Johnson can maximize the offensive potential of Whiteside and Winslow. That's not to say there shouldn't be such occasional experimentation (including plenty during the preseason), but both Richardson and Johnson are still dealing with learning curves when it comes to the needed NBA mindset at point guard. Now, if Josh McRoberts can make it back into the rotation, that at least would/could provide another facilitator in the halfcourt.
Q: Wayne Ellington, Josh McRoberts and Beno Udrih all seem like possible trade bait. -- Gabriel, Denver.
A: Actually, with the exception of McRoberts, not for a while. Any player signed in the offseason, including a returning player, cannot be dealt until Dec. 15. In addition, Tyler Johnson cannot be dealt until Jan. 15 because of the degree of the overall raise in his new contract. And when it comes to minimum-scale players such as Udrih, the trade value is minimal. Unless the Heat have something in mind with Goran Dragic or Josh McRoberts (or Chris Bosh, which doesn't seem feasible in light of his health), their trade possibilities will be several limited for months.
August 19, 2016
Q: Ira, I think Goran Dragic will be dealt by trade deadline if Miami is not in the playoff picture. If he plays really well, he could net picks and prospects -- Mac, Toronto.
A: First, don't lose sight of the reality that the Heat still owe a pair of potential lottery picks to the Suns for Goran. So to trade him away after such a brief audition could well leave the Heat at a net loss from that transition. I believe what first has to happen is that the Heat need to attempt to make this Goran's team, one capable playing at Goran Speed and with Goran Motor. While I appreciate the Chris Bosh situation complicates the matter, with Chris far superior in the halfcourt game, the Heat have to get a read on whether they can make this work, re-create more of those moments they received from Dragic in the playoffs. As for Goran's defensive issues, perhaps play Goran alongside Josh Richardson, so Richardson (or perhaps even Justise Winslow) can defend the opposing point guard, while hiding Dragic elsewhere, if possible.
Q: Do you think that if the Heat would have known they weren't going to re-sign Dwyane Wade they would have given Joe Johnson a contract guaranteed to stay in Miami? --- Daniel, Miami.
A: The might have, but it assuredly would not have been for the two seasons that Utah offered at $11 million per. And I'm not sure that Joe would have wanted to remain in Miami without Dwyane alongside. I agree that there did not necessarily appear to be a Plan B when it came to Wade's departure to the Bulls. But I'm not sure that Joe remaining with the Heat would have necessarily been an answer. I believe Joe is at a stage where he is best served as a secondary perimeter scoring option, something he can achieve alongside Gordon Hayward for at least this coming season, before Hayward has to decide on his own free agency.
Q: To me, the addition of Beno Udrih is the Heat returning the favor of Udrih keeping the Heat out of the luxury tax, nothing to do with win-now mode. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.
A: Which undoubtedly is a factor. Now, if the Heat were to turn around and then cut Udrih before the start of the season, perhaps in favor of Briante Weber, that would offer even greater clarity of that being a factor. There is, no doubt, a debt of gratitude involved in what has been a standing offer ever since Udrih went down with his foot injury and then agreed to his team-friendly buyout.
August 18, 2016
Q: I don't know why you assume we're giving a 34-year-old vet minutes just because he's now back. Backup point guard still is up for grabs. Beno Udrih is not the backup. Good try, but you're his only fan. -- Ben.
A: First, Beno played well in his minutes with the Heat, at times even outperforming Goran Dragic. Second, for games that Dragic might have to miss, Udrih would make the most sense as far as his ability to get the team into offense. The equation was different when Dwyane Wade was on the roster, where you could more easily pair him with pseudo-point types such as Tyler Johnson or Josh Richardson, because of Wade's ability to handle and advance the ball full court. To me, the addition of Udrih is an indication of the Heat trying to continue in win-now mode, with many of the younger players who excelled in summer league likely to farmed out. I think to maximize the growth of Hassan Whiteside, you have to pair him with a pass-first playmaker. No one on this roster fits that job description more than Beno. That's why the signing made sense on many levels. As would playing him in the primary rotation.
Q: If Tyler Johnson isn't being groomed to be a starting point guard, then Miami should get rid of him. Tyler Johnson is a one, not a two. -- Aura.
A: No, he isn't. Now, that doesn't mean he one day can't become an NBA-level starting point guard, but he simply is not at the moment. And he has not shown overwhelming indications that he is headed in that direction. Just because the Heat have too many shooting guards (Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Johnson) doesn't mean that Johnson therefore has to play point guard. In fact, of that group, Richardson has displayed far more of a playmaking disposition in his single season than Johnson has over the past two seasons. Granted, Tyler did not join the Heat until midway through 2014-15 and then missed the second half of this past season. For now, point guard remains on-the-job training for Johnson, in limited doses.
Q: Three young, talented shooting guards: Does experience or potential lead to a starting job? And which one has the highest ceiling? -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: To me, the highest ceiling is with Richardson. And yet, by draft pedigree, the NBA decided that it was Waiters coming out of Syracuse. By contract, it is Johnson, considering the Heat's $50 million forced investment. I still believe, if the Heat knew then what they know now, that they might not have been as quick to move on Ellington. Then again, if Chris Bosh, who was not even mentioned or pictured in Erik Spoelstra's promotional video, does not return, the I would expect the Heat to play Richardson quite a bit at small forward and go to small ball often.
August 17, 2016
Q: Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Josh McRoberts and Willie Reed have much more professional game experience than Justise Winslow (20) and Josh Richardson (22). Don't rush Justise and Josh. Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant had Shaquille O'Neal, while Tim Duncan had David Robinson. Without a mentor even Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kyrie Irving or Kristaps Porzingis didn't make the playoffs in their early years. -- Leonard, Aventura.
A: While the Heat have added a few veterans, there is a difference between "proven" veterans, and veterans who have been around for a while. It is one thing to grow to emulate David Robinson, it is another to walk in the footsteps of a journeyman. That's not to say that the veterans the Heat have added can't ease the adjustment for the Heat's younger players, but this is a team that often talks about the "Heat way," and that makes someone like Udonis Haslem a far more likely mentor than any of the recent arrivals. All of that said, it is not as if any of the Heat's younger players, including Richardson and Johnson, stand in the way of veterans currently more capable of providing playoff success. So you play the young players, with their mentorship best provided on the practice court. This is a team, save for players such as Haslem and perhaps Goran Dragic, where the leadership will have to come from the coaching staff. I believe Juwan Howard will be a significant part of that process.
Q: I don't think Tyler Johnson is a point guard, and Briante Weber may eventually get there, but I don't know if he's a playmaker. I still have faith in Josh McRoberts and I believe he'll have a real chance to shine with this squad. -- Martin, Los Angeles.
A: It is one thing to be a playmaker, it is another thing to get a team into offense in transition. Yes, McRoberts has the ability to keep the ball moving, to reverse it from side to side. But he is not someone who is going to advance the ball full-court, and if the defense doesn't step up to stop the ball, someone who can take it all the way to the rim. In fact, I'm not so sure that the Heat shouldn't back off the entire notion of McRoberts as facilitator, and instead simply get him into a role similar to most stretch fours, where he spaces the floor but also attacks the rim. To a degree, it's as if that side of McRoberts' Heat potential has yet to be explored.
Q: We shouldn't have matched Brooklyn's offer for Tyler Johnson. Would we be able to 'stretch' T.J.'s salary once the 'poison pill' contract starts to hurt us if he does not prove himself to be worthy over the next couple seasons? -- Dean, Miami.
A: While that could be an option, it is remarkable how many have already considered moving on from Johnson in the wake of the Heat matching the Nets' back-loaded offer. For now, Johnson stands as an asset, a player who could potentially grow into a starting NBA shooting guard. Before considering alternatives, I believe you first explore those possibilities, which means getting him on the court early and often this season. If it doesn't work out after his two lower-paid years, then you can consider the alternatives. But to consider them now appears far too premature.
August 16, 2016
Q: Where do you think this Heat team will stand among the rejuvenated Eastern Conference? Almost every team got better, but the Heat failed to even keep their roster the same. -- Juan, New York.
A: As with just about each of these types of questions it comes down to whether Chris Bosh plays. With Bosh, there is no reason for a team with Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic in the lineup to not be contending for homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. Without Bosh, it's a different story. I think it's safe to say that the Cavaliers again are the clear favorite in the East, with Boston taking a significant stride with the addition of Al Horford. Then there are the Raptors, who appear every bit as solid as last season, when they finished second to the Cavaliers both during the regular season and in the Eastern Conference finals. Beyond that, it appears to be a toss-up, with the Pacers, Knicks and Bulls offering new looks, the Wizards attempting to regain their stride, the Hawks looking to maintain their place and the Pistons seemingly on the rise. Without Bosh, it could be difficult for the Heat to crack that field. With Bosh, playoffs certainly could be a reality.
Q: In this Chris Bosh saga, who has the final decision whether he'll play or not? What will it have to take to let him play or make him retire? What if the doctors said it is 50-50, what then? Yes, the Heat can opt not to play him by "Coach's Decision," but I suppose that does not have the same effect to the salary cap as the retirement due to medical condition. -- Frances, Philippines.
A: First, the Heat cannot make Bosh retire. That ultimately has to be his, and only his, decision. And if Bosh doesn't agree to retire, then there will be no salary-cap relief. In other words, the process has to conclude with a mutual agreement between the parties. Short of that, the limbo will continue . . . possibly for the balance of the remaining three years on Chris' contract.
Q: Seeing as how the Heat basically are filled to capacity with this roster, who gets cut, who gets traded? -- Robert, Alexandria, Va.
A: Short of a trade of one of the few trade-eligible players on the current roster (those other than the players signed this offseason), it appears the odds are long for Rodney McGruder, Okaro White and Stefan Jankovic. The toughest decision could come if Beno Udrih is injected back into the mix, which could create a bit of consternation for Briante Weber.